Friday, June 26, 2015

My personal library and thoughts on reading statistics

Book reading is a hobby for most and for those in the field of journalism it would be part of the job too. In the current times of multimedia, when one can watch movies on cellphone, when TV has hundreds of channels, travel is no more a taboo and photography is attracting many enthusiasts, book readers are becoming a minority community. Reading a book for time pass is almost a gone thing. Those who wanted to read are reading. Probably you understand why publication is not a lucrative industry.

Keeping the business aspects apart, I wanted to discuss with you how many books one reads? Though it varies from person to person, if we assume that one reads two books a month, he/she would read around 24 books a year. If the person keeps this interest alive for lifetime (let us say he starts reading from the age of 10 till he is 60; that is 50 years!), there would be more than 1000 books he would be done with. But there are few rare (like Shashi Tharoor) who have a history of reading more than 300 books a year. Even at that run rate, one would reach the count of 15,000 books in life time. If you think these numbers look alright, what do you think of the 52,000 books in the personal library of Shrikant Jichkar, the most educated person in India? (Link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shrikant_Jichkar). What would be his reading speed? LK Advani, a senior political leader, who is 87, says that his personal library, which is already more than 15,000 books is growing now too. (http://blog.lkadvani.in/blog-in-english/let%E2%80%99s-all-make-our-lives-meaningful). Those who love books find it difficult to get drawn into some other passion; it sticks almost for their lifetime.

You might say, those building huge libraries for personal use, may not be actually be reading all of them. If you think so, you should watch this video of Osho (Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j1h8-WvzexY). He says he has read each one of the books in his very vast library (150,000 books). His was not a library in the house but rather a house in the library as he puts it. He says the book ‘The Brothers Karamazov has more insights to offer than the holy book of Bible. What a compliment to Fyodor Dostoevsky!


Now, let me come to my personal library. It has around 500 books now. Friends, relatives visiting my house give it a strange look. They need not necessarily share the same passion of mine. Some of my good friends have not read a single book after they have finished their studies but we have many other things in common. So they stare at my library for a moment and it does not interest them. But there are others who take interest, peep into it and say it has more fiction than non-fiction and reading novels is a waste of time. If I say there is more truth in fiction they may not appreciate, so I do not say it. Few tend to think reading books makes one a learned person but they ignore my opinion that reading does not always translate into knowledge, and it takes many other behavioral traits to be a learned person. (Einstein said ‘’Imagination is powerful than knowledge, what a learned person he was). But yet, there are a very few who touch the right strings, understand that reading is a compulsion for a person like me (forget the purpose of knowledge and entertainment) and our friendship strengthens.

So in summary, how many books one should read or what should be the size of a
personal library? Now I say forget statistics. We do not buy books or read to impress others. (If that is the reason, interest would not last long). Even if we have a collection of handful number of books we cherish, we would keep them with us for lifetime. Quality scores over quantity. With whatever collection we have, we can create a  grand Dolby-Digital theater in our minds by immersing ourselves into the world created by the author. The extent of imagination is only limited by the creative ability of yours and that of authors.

There are lots of finer things in life. But many of them are meant for our physical senses. The world created by books or by any other creative art, touches the psychological and spiritual aspects of us. If not books, get to know any art better. You would know how fine life is.